Though many had hoped he would lead the Minneapolis Police Department as it tries to reform and rebuild following several of its most challenging years, Chief Medaria Arradondo will step down next month. On Monday, he announced that he won't seek a third term and will retire after 32 years with the department — the last four as chief.
"After 32 years of service I believe that now is the right time to allow for new leadership, new perspective, new focus and new hope to lead the department forward in collaboration with our communities, and I am confident that the MPD has the leadership in place to advance this critically important work that lies ahead of us," Arradondo, 54, said at a news conference.
"Chief Rondo," as he is often called, earned a reputation as a calm, personable and compassionate leader who — despite the decades of problems at MPD — was often more popular with citizens than most elected city officials. In a September poll, just more than half of responding Minneapolis voters had an unfavorable view of MPD, but only 22% expressed an unfavorable view of the chief.
Mayor Jacob Frey, along with a number of community members, tried to convince Arradondo to stay on. And many believed that his being chief contributed to the defeat of a Minneapolis ballot measure that would have set aside the MPD and created a new department of public safety.
Arradondo was the second Minneapolis chief to have successfully sued his own department for discrimination. He and his immediate predecessor, Janeé Harteau, both challenged the department over their treatment — Harteau as a woman and Arradondo as an African American man. And both cops still stuck with MPD and rose through the ranks to the top job while continuing to work against internal racism and sexism.
During his tenure, Arradondo instituted a number of reforms, including tightening the department's pursuit policy after high-speed chases ended in fatalities and expanding implicit bias training for officers. He also rightly challenged provisions in the union contract that made it difficult to discipline officers and expressed understandable frustration with the arbitration system.
But despite immediately firing the four officers involved, he may be most remembered for being the chief in charge when George Floyd died after being pinned down by an MPD cop. Floyd's death, captured on video by a teenage bystander, became an international rallying cry for changing policing and combating racism and prompted weeks of protests and some violent riots.
In thanking the chief for his service on Monday, Frey said Arradondo would leave a legacy that "embodies public service, community and courage'' — along with a "proper foundation" for the next chief.
Frey promised a national search for MPD's next leader. It will be the most important hire the second-term mayor has ever made. The department must rebuild the community's trust; institute more reforms in hiring, training and supervision; and address disturbing levels of violent crime in the city. The department is down several hundred officers and faces state and federal investigations that could result in mandated change.
Arradondo, who grew up on the city's South Side, deserves praise for devoting his career to public service. But he leaves significant unfinished business at MPD.